Leah Lowe

Charlotte Yates









Funding continues support of study on concussions in adolescent athletes

Two faculty members in the University of Central Arkansas College of Health and Behavioral Sciences have been awarded a $50,000 grant to support an ongoing study on concussions in adolescent athletes.

Dr. Leah Lowe, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, and Dr. Charlotte Yates, associate professor in the department, were awarded the grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ (NIGMS) Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program. Their research focuses on assessment, treatment and return-to-play decisions regarding adolescents with concussions.

“Our study aims to investigate a number of questions related to [the] assessment of high school athletes who have had a concussion,” Lowe said. “We are examining a number of dynamic movement tests as well as a variety of tests of reaction time to uncover potential gaps in the current recommended assessment practice for this population following a concussion. We are also examining the frequency of neurocognitive testing in this population.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1.6 and 3.8 million sports and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries occur every year in the U.S. Yates and Lowe found adolescent high school athletes to be an understudied population at risk for concussions.

“We hope that our findings can ultimately impact not only assessment procedures but also clinical rehabilitation and return-to-play decision-making,” Yates said.

Yates and Lowe are currently in their second year of receiving grant funding from the IDeA program for this study. The third grant year, which includes the latest grant, begins May 1. They have received $50,000 a year from the program and will seek additional grants during the next school year.

Several students pursuing a doctoral degree in physical therapy and one pediatric resident assisted Yates and Lowe with data collection at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and various schools. Yates said that UCA’s physical therapy department has been flexible and supportive of their travel needs for data collection.

In the first two years of the study, they collected data from 275 healthy athletes, whose data served as a reference range.

“We are now in the process of collecting data on subjects [in] the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Concussion Clinic. We will be able to compare data from these concussed athletes to the values obtained in our normative samples,” Lowe said.

The NIGMS IDeA program grant will allow Yates and Lowe to expand their reach.

“The grant has provided us with funds to travel to schools and assistance to attend the physical therapy national conference to disseminate research findings, and funds to hire a research assistant and statistical assistance,” Yates said.

“We are honored and excited to potentially contribute to a better understanding of concussion in this adolescent population,” Lowe said.

The NIGMS supports research that contributes to the understanding of biological processes and strives toward advances in diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Its IDeA program supports research in states that typically have experienced low levels of National Institutes of Health funding and addresses research needs of communities that are medically underserved. For more information, visit www.nigms.nih.gov.